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1.  Mortality in Iraq Associated with the 2003–2011 War and Occupation: Findings from a National Cluster Sample Survey by the University Collaborative Iraq Mortality Study 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(10):e1001533.
Based on a survey of 2,000 randomly selected households throughout Iraq, Amy Hagopian and colleagues estimate that close to half a million excess deaths are attributable to the recent Iraq war and occupation.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Previous estimates of mortality in Iraq attributable to the 2003 invasion have been heterogeneous and controversial, and none were produced after 2006. The purpose of this research was to estimate direct and indirect deaths attributable to the war in Iraq between 2003 and 2011.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a survey of 2,000 randomly selected households throughout Iraq, using a two-stage cluster sampling method to ensure the sample of households was nationally representative. We asked every household head about births and deaths since 2001, and all household adults about mortality among their siblings. We used secondary data sources to correct for out-migration. From March 1, 2003, to June 30, 2011, the crude death rate in Iraq was 4.55 per 1,000 person-years (95% uncertainty interval 3.74–5.27), more than 0.5 times higher than the death rate during the 26-mo period preceding the war, resulting in approximately 405,000 (95% uncertainty interval 48,000–751,000) excess deaths attributable to the conflict. Among adults, the risk of death rose 0.7 times higher for women and 2.9 times higher for men between the pre-war period (January 1, 2001, to February 28, 2003) and the peak of the war (2005–2006). We estimate that more than 60% of excess deaths were directly attributable to violence, with the rest associated with the collapse of infrastructure and other indirect, but war-related, causes. We used secondary sources to estimate rates of death among emigrants. Those estimates suggest we missed at least 55,000 deaths that would have been reported by households had the households remained behind in Iraq, but which instead had migrated away. Only 24 households refused to participate in the study. An additional five households were not interviewed because of hostile or threatening behavior, for a 98.55% response rate. The reliance on outdated census data and the long recall period required of participants are limitations of our study.
Conclusions
Beyond expected rates, most mortality increases in Iraq can be attributed to direct violence, but about a third are attributable to indirect causes (such as from failures of health, sanitation, transportation, communication, and other systems). Approximately a half million deaths in Iraq could be attributable to the war.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
War is a major public health problem. Its health effects include violent deaths among soldiers and civilians as well as indirect increases in mortality and morbidity caused by conflict. Unlike those of other causes of death and disability, however, the consequences of war on population health are rarely studied scientifically. In conflict situations, deaths and diseases are not reliably measured and recorded, and estimating the proportion caused, directly or indirectly, by a war or conflict is challenging. Population-based mortality survey methods—asking representative survivors about deaths they know about—were developed by public health researchers to estimate death rates. By comparing death rate estimates for periods before and during a conflict, researchers can derive the number of excess deaths that are attributable to the conflict.
Why Was This Study Done?
A number of earlier studies have estimated the death toll in Iraq since the beginning of the war in March 2003. The previous studies covered different periods from 2003 to 2006 and derived different rates of overall deaths and excess deaths attributable to the war and conflict. All of them have been controversial, and their methodologies have been criticized. For this study, based on a population-based mortality survey, the researchers modified and improved their methodology in response to critiques of earlier surveys. The study covers the period from the beginning of the war in March 2003 until June 2011, including a period of high violence from 2006 to 2008. It provides population-based estimates for excess deaths in the years after 2006 and covers most of the period of the war and subsequent occupation.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Interviewers trained by the researchers conducted the survey between May 2011 and July 2011 and collected data from 2,000 randomly selected households in 100 geographical clusters, distributed across Iraq's 18 governorates. The interviewers asked the head of each household about deaths among household members from 2001 to the time of the interview, including a pre-war period from January 2001 to March 2003 and the period of the war and occupation. They also asked all adults in the household about deaths among their siblings during the same period. From the first set of data, the researchers calculated the crude death rates (i.e., the number of deaths during a year per 1,000 individuals) before and during the war. They found the wartime crude death rate in Iraq to be 4.55 per 1,000, more than 50% higher than the death rate of 2.89 during the two-year period preceding the war. By multiplying those rates by the annual Iraq population, the authors estimate the total excess Iraqi deaths attributable to the war through mid-2011 to be about 405,000. The researchers also estimated that an additional 56,000 deaths were not counted due to migration. Including this number, their final estimate is that approximately half a million people died in Iraq as a result of the war and subsequent occupation from March 2003 to June 2011.
The risk of death at the peak of the conflict in 2006 almost tripled for men and rose by 70% for women. Respondents attributed 20% of household deaths to war-related violence. Violent deaths were attributed primarily to coalition forces (35%) and militia (32%). The majority (63%) of violent deaths were from gunshots. Twelve percent were attributed to car bombs. Based on the responses from adults in the surveyed households who reported on the alive-or-dead status of their siblings, the researchers estimated the total number of deaths among adults aged 15–60 years, from March 2003 to June 2011, to be approximately 376,000; 184,000 of these deaths were attributed to the conflict, and of those, the authors estimate that 132,000 were caused directly by war-related violence.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide the most up-to-date estimates of the death toll of the Iraq war and subsequent conflict. However, given the difficult circumstances, the estimates are associated with substantial uncertainties. The researchers extrapolated from a small representative sample of households to estimate Iraq's national death toll. In addition, respondents were asked to recall events that occurred up to ten years prior, which can lead to inaccuracies. The researchers also had to rely on outdated census data (the last complete population census in Iraq dates back to 1987) for their overall population figures. Thus, to accompany their estimate of 460,000 excess deaths from March 2003 to mid-2011, the authors used statistical methods to determine the likely range of the true estimate. Based on the statistical methods, the researchers are 95% confident that the true number of excess deaths lies between 48,000 and 751,000—a large range. More than two years past the end of the period covered in this study, the conflict in Iraq is far from over and continues to cost lives at alarming rates. As discussed in an accompanying Perspective by Salman Rawaf, violence and lawlessness continue to the present day. In addition, post-war Iraq has limited capacity to re-establish and maintain its battered public health and safety infrastructure.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001533
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Salman Rawaf.
The Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development website provides information on the global burden of armed violence.
The International Committee of the Red Cross provides information about war and international humanitarian law (in several languages).
Medact, a global health charity, has information on health and conflict.
Columbia University has a program on forced migration and health.
Johns Hopkins University runs the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response.
University of Washington's Health Alliance International website also has information about war and conflict.
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001533
PMCID: PMC3797136  PMID: 24143140
3.  An assessment of air pollution and its attributable mortality in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia 
Epidemiologic studies have consistently reported associations between outdoor fine particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution and adverse health effects. Although Asia bears the majority of the public health burden from air pollution, few epidemiologic studies have been conducted outside of North America and Europe due in part to challenges in population exposure assessment. We assessed the feasibility of two current exposure assessment techniques, land use regression (LUR) modeling and mobile monitoring, and estimated the mortality attributable to air pollution in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. We developed LUR models for predicting wintertime spatial patterns of NO2 and SO2 based on 2-week passive Ogawa measurements at 37 locations and freely available geographic predictors. The models explained 74% and 78% of the variance in NO2 and SO2, respectively. Land cover characteristics derived from satellite images were useful predictors of both pollutants. Mobile PM2.5 monitoring with an integrating nephelometer also showed promise, capturing substantial spatial variation in PM2.5 concentrations. The spatial patterns in SO2 and PM, seasonal and diurnal patterns in PM2.5, and high wintertime PM2.5/PM10 ratios were consistent with a major impact from coal and wood combustion in the city’s low-income traditional housing (ger) areas. The annual average concentration of PM2.5 measured at a centrally located government monitoring site was 75 μg/m3 or more than seven times the World Health Organization’s PM2.5 air quality guideline, driven by a wintertime average concentration of 148 μg/m3. PM2.5 concentrations measured in a traditional housing area were higher, with a wintertime mean PM2.5 concentration of 250 μg/m3. We conservatively estimated that 29% (95% CI, 12–43%) of cardiopulmonary deaths and 40% (95% CI, 17–56%) of lung cancer deaths in the city are attributable to outdoor air pollution. These deaths correspond to nearly 10% of the city’s total mortality, with estimates ranging to more than 13% of mortality under less conservative model assumptions. LUR models and mobile monitoring can be successfully implemented in developing country cities, thus cost-effectively improving exposure assessment for epidemiology and risk assessment. Air pollution represents a major threat to public health in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and reducing home heating emissions in traditional housing areas should be the primary focus of air pollution control efforts.
doi:10.1007/s11869-011-0154-3
PMCID: PMC3578716  PMID: 23450113
Satellite; Exposure; Nephelometer; Asia; Impact assessment; Coal; Combustion
4.  Exposure Assessment in Cohort Studies of Childhood Asthma 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2010;119(5):591-597.
Background
The environment is suspected to play an important role in the development of childhood asthma. Cohort studies are a powerful observational design for studying exposure–response relationships, but their power depends in part upon the accuracy of the exposure assessment.
Objective
The purpose of this paper is to summarize and discuss issues that make accurate exposure assessment a challenge and to suggest strategies for improving exposure assessment in longitudinal cohort studies of childhood asthma and allergies.
Data synthesis
Exposures of interest need to be prioritized, because a single study cannot measure all potentially relevant exposures. Hypotheses need to be based on proposed mechanisms, critical time windows for effects, prior knowledge of physical, physiologic, and immunologic development, as well as genetic pathways potentially influenced by the exposures. Modifiable exposures are most important from the public health perspective. Given the interest in evaluating gene–environment interactions, large cohort sizes are required, and planning for data pooling across independent studies is critical. Collection of additional samples, possibly through subject participation, will permit secondary analyses. Models combining air quality, environmental, and dose data provide exposure estimates across large cohorts but can still be improved.
Conclusions
Exposure is best characterized through a combination of information sources. Improving exposure assessment is critical for reducing measurement error and increasing power, which increase confidence in characterization of children at risk, leading to improved health outcomes.
doi:10.1289/ehp.1002267
PMCID: PMC3094407  PMID: 21081299
childhood asthma; cohort studies; exposure assessment
5.  Climate Change and Health in British Columbia: Projected Impacts and a Proposed Agenda for Adaptation Research and Policy 
This is a case study describing how climate change may affect the health of British Columbians and to suggest a way forward to promote health and policy research, and adaptation to these changes. After reviewing the limited evidence of the impacts of climate change on human health we have developed five principles to guide the development of research and policy to better predict future impacts of climate change on health and to enhance adaptation to these change in BC. We suggest that, with some modification, these principles will be useful to policy makers in other jurisdictions.
doi:10.3390/ijerph7031018
PMCID: PMC2872312  PMID: 20617016
climate change; British Columbia; health; adaptation
6.  The Seattle–King County Healthy Homes II Project: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Asthma Self-management Support Comparing Clinic-Based Nurses and In-Home Community Health Workers 
Objective
To compare the marginal benefit of in-home asthma self-management support provided by community health workers (CHWs) with standard asthma education from clinic-based nurses.
Design
Randomized controlled trial.
Setting
Community and public health clinics and homes.
Participants
Three hundred nine children aged 3 to 13 years with asthma living in low-income households.
Interventions
All participants received nurse-provided asthma education and referrals to community resources. Some participants also received CHW-provided home environmental assessments, asthma education, social support, and asthma-control resources.
Outcome Measures
Asthma symptom–free days, Pediatric Asthma Caretaker Quality of Life Scale score, and use of urgent health services.
Results
Both groups showed significant increases in caretaker quality of life (nurse-only group: 0.4 points; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.3–0.6; nurse + CHW group: 0.6 points; 95% CI, 0.4–0.8) and number of symptom-free days (nurse only: 1.3 days; 95% CI, 0.5–2.1; nurse + CHW: 1.9 days; 95% CI, 1.1–2.8), and absolute decreases in the proportion of children who used urgent health services in the prior 3 months (nurse only: 17.6%; 95% CI, 8.1%–27.2%; nurse + CHW: 23.1%; 95% CI, 13.6%–32.6%). Quality of life improved by 0.22 more points in the nurse + CHW group (95% CI, 0.00–0.44; P=.049). The number of symptom-free days increased by 0.94 days per 2 weeks (95% CI, 0.02–1.86; P = .046), or 24.4 days per year, in the nurse + CHW group. While use of urgent health services decreased more in the nurse + CHW group, the difference between groups was not significant.
Conclusion
The addition of CHW home visits to clinic-based asthma education yielded a clinically important increase in symptom-free days and a modest improvement in caretaker quality of life.
doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2008.532
PMCID: PMC2810206  PMID: 19188646
7.  Childhood Asthma and Environmental Interventions 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2007;115(6):971-975.
Background
Contaminants encountered in many households, such as environmental tobacco smoke, house dust mite, cockroach, cat and dog dander, and mold, are risk factors in asthma. Young children are a particularly vulnerable subpopulation for environmentally mediated asthma, and the economic burden associated with this disease is substantial. Certain mechanical interventions are effective both in reducing allergen loads in the home and in improving asthmatic children’s respiratory health.
Results
Combinations of interventions including the use of dust mite-impermeable bedding covers, improved cleaning practices, high-efficiency particulate air vacuum cleaners, mechanical ventilation, and parental education are associated with both asthma trigger reduction and improved health outcomes for asthmatic children. Compared with valuated health benefits, these combinations of interventions have proven cost effective in studies that have employed them. Education alone has not proven effective in changing parental behaviors such as smoking in the home.
Conclusions
Future research should focus on improving the effectiveness of education on home asthma triggers, and understanding long-term children’s health effects of the interventions that have proven effective in reducing asthma triggers.
doi:10.1289/ehp.8989
PMCID: PMC1892116  PMID: 17589609
childhood asthma; economic impacts; indoor air quality; indoor environments; public health interventions
8.  The Seattle-King County healthy homes project: implementation of a comprehensive approach to improving indoor environmental quality for low-income children with asthma. 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2002;110(Suppl 2):311-322.
Pediatric asthma is a growing public health issue, disproportionately affecting low-income people and people of color. Exposure to indoor asthma triggers plays an important role in the development and exacerbation of asthma. We describe the implementation of the Seattle-King County Healthy Homes Project, a randomized, controlled trial of an outreach/education intervention to improve asthma-related health status by reducing exposure to allergens and irritants in the home. We randomly assigned 274 low-income children with asthma ages 4-12 to either a high- or a low-intensity group. In the high-intensity group, community health workers called Community Home Environmental Specialists (CHES) conducted initial home environmental assessments, provided individualized action plans, and made additional visits over a 12-month period to provide education and social support, encouragement of participant actions, provision of materials to reduce exposures (including bedding encasements), assistance with roach and rodent eradication, and advocacy for improved housing conditions. Members of the low-intensity group received the initial assessment, home action plan, limited education during the assessment visit, and bedding encasements. We describe the recruitment and training of CHES and challenges they faced and explain the assessment and exposure reduction protocols addressing dust mites, mold, tobacco smoke, pets, cockroaches, rodents, dust, moisture, and toxic or hazardous chemicals. We also discuss the gap between the practices recommended in the literature and what is feasible in the home. We accomplished home interventions and participants found the project very useful. The project was limited in resolving structural housing quality issues that contributed to exposure to indoor triggers.
PMCID: PMC1241178  PMID: 11929743
9.  A two-stage cluster sampling method using gridded population data, a GIS, and Google EarthTM imagery in a population-based mortality survey in Iraq 
Background
Mortality estimates can measure and monitor the impacts of conflict on a population, guide humanitarian efforts, and help to better understand the public health impacts of conflict. Vital statistics registration and surveillance systems are rarely functional in conflict settings, posing a challenge of estimating mortality using retrospective population-based surveys.
Results
We present a two-stage cluster sampling method for application in population-based mortality surveys. The sampling method utilizes gridded population data and a geographic information system (GIS) to select clusters in the first sampling stage and Google Earth TM imagery and sampling grids to select households in the second sampling stage. The sampling method is implemented in a household mortality study in Iraq in 2011. Factors affecting feasibility and methodological quality are described.
Conclusion
Sampling is a challenge in retrospective population-based mortality studies and alternatives that improve on the conventional approaches are needed. The sampling strategy presented here was designed to generate a representative sample of the Iraqi population while reducing the potential for bias and considering the context specific challenges of the study setting. This sampling strategy, or variations on it, are adaptable and should be considered and tested in other conflict settings.
doi:10.1186/1476-072X-11-12
PMCID: PMC3490933  PMID: 22540266
Cluster sampling; Population-based survey; Mortality; Conflict; Iraq war; Geographic information system (GIS); Google EarthTM

Results 1-9 (9)